Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Japan - Day 15

I woke up early in the morning and went for a walk. The hostel on top of the hill has a truly fabulous view!

Later in the morning Chris and I went for a walk around the Dogo Onsen. First we visited one of the shrines that form part of the Shikoku pilgrimage. Let me back up. The island of Shikoku is famous for a pilgrimage that goes counterclockwise around the island. The circuit involves visiting 88 shrines all around, and people do it on foot (six months), bike (six weeks), bus, or car. Pilgrims wear distinctive white clothes, and we actually saw one in Dogo (which is the 57th shrine in the pilgrimage).

We also visited the Onsen, including the private part reserved for the emperor. Pretty nifty. Then we went down to see the singing clock, which is a miniature of the many tiers of the Dogo Onsen itself.

We rounded the evening with a cool tram ride to the foot of the hill where the Matsuyama feudal castle is built. We took a chair lift up the hill, just like the ones used by skiers, and spent a delightful hour visiting the castle. It is a grand structure meant to keep feudal enemies at bay, but I don't think it was ever attacked. Chris dressed up as a samurai! The armor was there, and a friendly attendant took the time to dress him up.

We took the tram back to Dogo, collected our stuff, and then took the tram back to the train station. Our goal was to reach the isolated mountains of eastern Sikoku, in what is called Iya Valley. Access is difficult, however, and our best bet was to stop at the tiny village of Oboke, spend the night, and then look for a bus or something to take us to the valley. We got to Oboke around 6 pm, just when it was getting dark, and Chris called the place where we were planning to stay to get directions. Oh so sorry, they said, we have no place tonight. What?! Chris almost lost it, thinking about Nagasaki, so I took a quick look at the train schedule and decided to push on to Kochi. The only option was the slow milk train, so it was not until 9 pm that we got to Kochi. Based on very vague instructions I managed to find an obscure Japanese guest house. The lights were out, but I walked into the lobby saying Komban-wa, and eventually a diminutive grandma answered the greeting. She was a chatty thing (in Japanese, of course), so we got along famously. She promptly sent her grandson to set a room for us, and she brought yogurt and bananas for us to have a bite to eat before retiring. The following morning she was bustling around at 5:30 am, greeted me cheerfully, and eventually wrote me a bill that, as she very expressively explained included a significant discount because we were visitors to Japan. What a delightful person!

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